Monday, March 31, 2014

Divine Protection

Note: Fr Athanasios, whose name in the world was Nicholas, was Elder Joseph's brother, ten years younger...

Because Fr. Athanasios was busy every day carrying supplies, he would return at odd hours. Geronda (Elder Joseph) built a tiny little hut for him outside their enclosure so that he wouldn't disturb the others when he returned. In this minuscule hut there was a wood stove and two planks for a bed. There was barely enough room left for him to do prostrations. When Fr. Athanasios would return from his errands exhausted, he would first fulfill is spiritual responsibilities and then fall asleep flat on his face. While he was asleep, many times he would be touching the stove, which was lit in winter, but his clothes never caught fire! God protected him.
Once when he entered his hut to rest, he saw a viper. He indifferently said to it, "If you want, bite me!" and then laid down to sleep! The viper left. This person lived miraculously; God's grace saved him.
There were three cisterns, and one of them was used only for watering plants because the water was so filthy. Snakes and rats would fall in it, and later the fathers would pull out their skeletons. Even so, Fr. Athanasios drank water from there! The other fathers told him, "Don't drink that water, Father. It's dirty!"
He replied: "This is what the rabid god (referring to himself) should drink! Nothing bad will happen to me."
He drank water that the others were disgusted to use even for washing their clothes.

Once he went to the distant Gournoskiti because he wanted to get some grapes from the vineyards there. On his way back, he passed the ridge of Mount Athos and loaded himself with vegetables at Konstamonitou Monastery. Then he took two other paths and gathered more provisions. Finally, he set off for his hut with a gigantic sack and various other bags hanging from his belt and arms. Not even mules were loaded up as he was. When he reached the port of St. Paul's Monastery, he saw a ferryman with his son and asked them, "Where are you going, captain?"
"I'm going to St. Anne's Skete."
"Can you take me along, too?"
When he sat down in the boat, all sweaty with the sack still on his back, he thought to himself, "I had better not take off the sack because I'll catch a cold. I'll just leave it on my back."
Since he was tired and sleepy, he soon dozed off. When the boat suddenly jerked, he fell into the sea along with his sack! Even though he had been in the navy, he had never learned how to swim. "Oh, no!" the ferryman's son cried out. "Dad! We lost the monk! He's going to drown!"
"Oh, no!" the ferryman shouted. "We'll end up in jail."
Fortunately, however, they were able to catch him with the oars and managed to lift him back into the boat. For the rest of the journey, he remained as he was: soaked and with the sack still tied to his back. When they reached the port of St. Anne's, he went up to Geronda as if nothing at all had happened. His battle with thoughts had already granted him deep self-reproach, which in turn gave him such a superhuman degree of self-denial that he disregarded everything.
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